February 27, 2024
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February 27, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Sheltering in Place From My Perspective

As I am writing this column for the April 2 issue of The Jewish Link, our world as we know it has changed drastically since my previous article, “The Shoelace,” published on March 5. Somehow, writing about the shoelace seems so far away and irrelevant. Shelter in place, self-quarantine, essential services and social distancing have become familiar terms that we are hearing in the news, on the internet and discussing repeatedly with friends and family.

I would like to share with you how I, a professional organizer, am handling my shelter-in-place status. I am used to being out and about and being a participant in my clients’ lives. I love working out with my friends at my trainer’s gym. Shelter in place has robbed me of my ability to earn a living, to do work that I love that not only helps people, but gives me purpose. Fortunately, so far Don and I remain healthy and have dodged the COVID-19 bullet.

On March 20, about 18 hours before the governor’s announcement, Don and I rose at 5 a.m. to get to the ShopRite for the dedicated hour of seniors-only shopping. Just so you know, I never go food shopping. But I wanted to support Don and I knew we were going to have to divide and conquer once inside the store. They were not asking for proof/ID of age, but if they had, my gray hair would have done the talking.

Once inside we went straight to the toilet paper aisle. We were able to find everything we needed; we did not over buy. For the first time in 3 weeks we were able to get our hands on some sanitizing wipes, but only because we were there early. The front-end cashiers were being diligent to remove any items from carts that were on a restricted purchase list (for example: rice, toilet paper, beef and wipes). I thanked her for her commitment to her job and to the community. Add checkout workers to the list of people who are providing an important public service during this pandemic.

After food shopping, our time was spent sorting through two file cabinets in our basement. This task was long overdue. We filled two large bins of papers that Don will shred later this week. I felt as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Those cabinets were filled with memories from jobs long gone, events that are meaningless to our lives now and accolades that are not significant to the person I am today.

I am reflecting on what’s important. Don and I have each other, food in the fridge, a roof over our heads and, so far, we are healthy. Our son and wife are hunkered down in Brooklyn and they are safe. My sister and brother-in-law have already been practicing social distancing by living in the sparsely populated state of Wyoming for the past several years.

I miss working. I miss our clients, our friends, getting together with our son and daughter-in-law for lunch in the city, and feeling free to give and receive hugs. Our work takes us into the inner sanctum of our clients’ homes. We are exposed to sadness, joy and ambivalence as we sort through our clients’ belongings. I suspect that this worldwide pandemic will in the short term increase our desire to hoard goods, and that makes me sad. If we all continue to shop for only what we require, we will leave enough for others. Let’s all take a breath and put one package of hand sanitizer and toilet paper back on the shelf for the next customer.

We have before us a unique opportunity for self-discovery and reflection. It’s a great time to look inside ourselves and see what’s really important without the demands of visual frills. Reach out to family, friends and neighbors who may be alone. Offer others support through conversation and laughter. Keep smiling. Perhaps we will find out what truly makes us happy. You may be surprised to find that it’s not about our stuff, but who we are as people.

Be safe. Happy organizing!


Eileen Bergman is a professional organizer and a proud member of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO). Eileen is listed in the resource directory for the Hoarding Disorder Resource and Training Group. Eileen may be reached at 973-303-3236 or [email protected].

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